Going by the decision of the Senate last week, the battle line, it seems, may have been drawn between Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state and Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) over consideration of Barrister Ahmed Bello Mahmud as nominee for the position of Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state. In this piece, TAIYE ODEWALE examines the issues at stake.
Genesis of the controversy
President Muhammadu Buhari had through a letter dated February 27, 2017 forwarded to the Senate on his behalf by Professor Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity as the Acting President then, nominated Ahmed Bello Mahmud for confirmation as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for Zamfara State along with 26 other nominees for the other states.
The President in the letter read on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on 23rd of March 2017, said: “In compliance with the provisions of Section 14 (3) (a) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I write to request the confirmation of the following nominees for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners.
“The nominees are, Prof. Godswill Obioma (Abia), Ibrahim Abdullahi (Adamawa), Alhaji Ahmad Makama (Bauchi), James Apam (Benue), Mike Igini (Delta), Dr . Nkwachukwu Orji (Ebonyi), Dr. Illoh Joseph Chuks (Enugu) , Hussaini Halilu Pai (FCT), Sadiq Abubakar Musa (Kaduna), Jibrin Ibrahim Zarewa (Kano), Dr. Asmau Sani Maikudi (Katsina).
“Others are, Dr. Mahmuda Isah (Kebbi), Prof. Samuel Egwu (Kogi), Ambassador Rufus Akeju (Lagos), Prof. Mustapha Zubairu (Niger), Agboke Mutiu Olaleke (Ogun), Sam Olugbadebo Olumekun (Ondo), AbdulGaniyu Olayinka Taju (Oyo), Prof. Riskuwa Shehu (Sokoto), Kasim Gana Geidam ( Yobe), Ahmad Bello Mahmud (Zamfara), Dr . Nentawe Goshwe Yilwatda ( Plateau), Umar Ibrahim (Taraba), Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu ( Anambra), Mr . Emeka Ononamadu Joseph (Imo), Obo. O. Effanga (Cross River) and Dr. Briyai O. Frankland (Bayelsa)”.
Gov Yari’s counter nominee
But upon hearing of the nominations, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State in a letter of rejection of nomination dated 28th March 2017 addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, copies of which were forwarded to the Senate Leadership, vehemently rejected Barrister Ahmed Bello Mahmud as nominee for Zamfara REC on the grounds of indigeneship.
The Governor, in the letter he personally signed entitled: “ Re: Nominee of Resident Electoral Commissioner Representing Zamfara State “, argued thus “ I wish to respectfully refer His Excellency, Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to the list of nominees for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners in the country’ where the name of Barr. Ahmad Bello Mahmud appeared as Zamfara State’s representative.
“Pursuant to the above, I wish to draw the attention of Mr. President to the fact that the nominee hails from Dogon Daji town of SokotoState and has no historical lineage with Zamfara he has been slated to represent. However, he was appointed to serve the state as Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice and later Chairman Anti Corruption Commission on request by his political mentor, late Alhaji Ummaru Aliyu Shinkafl (Marafan Sokoto) of blessed memory. Since he completed his term of office, he has not been associating himself with the people and government of Zamfara State and has been contributing to its development and progress in any way.
“Mr. President, Sir, in consideration of the act establishing the Federal Character Commission that provides for equal representation by states in appointment of this nature, Barr. Bello Mahmud is FIT to represent Sokoto State but NOT Zamfara. Accordingly, I wish to recommend Alhaji Sani Garba Gusau, a bonafide indigene of Zamfara to represent the state for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioner.
“The proposed candidate is an honest and diligent officer with proven integrity exhibited in the various capacities he served the state since its creation. As a civil servant, he rose along the ladder and retired as a Permanent Secretary. Because of his track record of service, he was invited to serve in various political positions including being Special Adviser and Hon. Commissioner. Alhaji Sani Garba Gusau contributes immensely to the political and economic development of the state and can therefore effectively represent its people and interest…”.
Committee on INEC’s submission
The submission apparently made the Senate in July, based on the reports submitted to it by its committee on INEC, to refuse the confirmation of Ahmed Bello Mahmud along with that of his counterparts from Lagos and Kebbi States by ordering the committee chaired by Senator Yahaya Kaura (APC Zamfara North) to carry out further screening on them and report back in due course.
However, the committee in its report considered by the Senate penultimate Thursday, recommended confirmation for the nominations of the Lagos and Kebbi States but rejection for that of Zamfara nominee based on the earlier stated reason given by the state governor in his letter of protest to that effect.
Though Senator Kabiru Marafa made spirited efforts to get Mahmud’s nomination considered that day but the Senate through voice votes taken, stood by the recommendation of its committee by rejecting his nomination on the grounds of not being an indigene of the state. But the Senate was made to revisit Mahmud’s rejection last week Wednesday by the same Marafa who came through a motion to facilitate it.
Senator Marafa’s motion
Senator Marafa in the motion anchored on orders 53(6) and 42 of the Senate’s standing rules argued that it was wrong for the committee to have baded its rejection of the nominee on indegineship since it was not stated as part of its methodology of screening the nominees .
Besides, according to him, the nominee as clearly stated in the committee’s report, was born and brought up in Gusau , the capital of Zamfara State and even served as the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General of the state from 1999 -2003 and Chairman, Zamfara State Anti-Corruption Commission from 2003 to 2007.
He cited series of examples of Nigerians from different states whose parents were not from Lagos States and yet held very important political positions on the platform of the state appointive or elective, without any opposition whatsoever from Lagosians.
“This is in line with constitutional provisions which say any Nigerian who has lived in an area for ten years can be appointed in any capacity to serve in his area of domicile.
“Mr President is right on his nomination of Mahmud for REC position in Zamfara State and is highly qualified for it”, he said. Consequently, the Senate directed its committee on INEC to reconsider Mahmud’s nomination and report back this week.
Yari’s war against me
Further speaking on the subject matter outside the Senate Chamber in an interview with journalists, Marafa insisted that the earlier rejection of the nominee by the Senate, was based on the letter written to that effect by Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State to President Muhammadu Buhari copies of which were forwarded to the Senate.
He accused the governor of being hypocritical for rejecting the President’s nominee, since there are other Nigerians who are not from Zamfara State serving in various capacities in the state in line with the laws of the land .
“As a senator from Zamfara state and one from the senatorial district the nominee comes from in the state, the governor supposed to consult me before writing such letter of rejection let alone lobbying the senate through the committee to do so.
“He has no doubt declares war against me by his action and I am very much ready for him. Thank God I have succeeded in making my fellow senators to have a rethink over the matter today (last week Wednesday) the same way I will make them block the Governor’s move for approval of foreign loan very soon “, he said .
But with the two other senators from Zamfara state i.e, Senators Tijjani Kaura (APC Zamfara North) and Ahmed Sani Yerima (APC Zamfara West) on the same page with Governor Yari over Mahmud’s rejection , will Marafa have his way in getting him confirmed on the floor of the senate and how far will he go in blocking the coming foreign loan request by the governor in the senate ?
Time will definitely tell.